When Not to Capitalize People's Titles

Most of us have bosses. And even long after the days when people were inclined to call a boss "Mr." anything, most of us nonetheless feel obligated to show them a little deference. 

I suppose that’s why so many copywriters and even features writers think that the titles of company bigwigs must be capitalized in every circumstance.

 Joseph Jeeves is the President and Chief Operating Officer.

 Mary Jessup is the Executive Vice President in Charge of International Mergers and E-Commerce Manager.

I long ago lost my ability to be objective about all the things that may be wrong with that approach. Instead, my measured opinion on all this caps is a straightforward “yuck.”

 Professional publishing doesn’t like using this many caps. So, if you want your writing to look like something in a professionally written publication, neither should you. The easiest thing to do is just to never capitalize them at all. But if you want to emulate the news media, consider the Associated Press Stylebook's recommendation:

"In general, confine capitalization to formal titles used directly before an individual’s name. The basic guidelines:

"LOWERCASE:
"Lowercase and spell out titles when they are not used with an individual’s name: The president issued a statement. The pope gave his blessing."

 Plus, AP warns, while you might use caps in Vice President Nelson Rockefeller, commas could change that.

 “Lowercase and spell out titles in constructions that set them off from a name by commas: The vice president, Nelson Rockefeller, declined to run again.

 In other words, when there are commas separating it from the name, it’s not part of the name. You’re not saying Vice President Nelson Rockefeller. You’re saying: The vice president, who is named Nelson Rockefeller.

The bottom line: To make your writing look professional, avoid capitals whenever possible, and resist the urge to pay homage to anyone with capitalization like: Nelson Rockefeller, Former Vice President of These United States, Distinguished Gentleman, and Exceedingly Wealthy Individual.

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